• Fmr. US Amb to Iraq Jim Jeffrey: Now Gasping for Lameness

    May 14, 2013 // 8 Comments »

    Oh my! Retired, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey has turned into a real tiger.

    Now at the Washington Institute, a “think” tank, Jeffrey surveyed the current crumbling scene in Iraq from his office window (May is already boiling, and April was the bloodiest month there since 2008, with 712 killed, 1,633 wounded in sectarian violence) and wildly uncorked this remark:

    Obama should also signal his willingness to consider new approaches to Iraq if the Maliki government continues its campaign against the Sunni Arab and Kurdish populations.


    [Jon Stewart-type mug face to camera look now]

    OMG! A willingness, really? And to consider? And the stinger, a new approach?!?

    Hard hitting.

    Insightful.

    Utter bullshit. All the impact of a David Bowie-Justin Bieber slap fight.

    Heavens me, Prime Minister Maliki must be a’ quaking in his sandals. Maliki watched in 2010 as the U.S. stood aside and allowed Iran to broker the election that put him in power. He tried to arrest his Sunni VP practically hours after the last US troops left Iraq. He has seen the U.S. do nothing as he seeks to crush violently the Sunni and Kurd minorities over an extended period of time, including during Ambassador Jeffrey’s own lame tenure. Maliki has allowed Iran to tranship weapons into Syria across Iraq while the U.S. dithered from some dark corner.

    Maliki knows a defeated nation when he sees one. This is how America loses wars, former Ambassador Jeffrey.

    Grrrr!




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    All About Oil: Former US Ambassador to Iraq Now Works for Exxon

    February 11, 2013 // 11 Comments »

    Demonstrating the core values of service and loyalty, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey now works directly for Exxon Mobile. Jeffrey was America’s man in Baghdad, helming the World’s Largest and Most Expensive Embassy there from 2010-2012.

    The problem Jeffrey was most likely hired to resolve is oil, specifically oil in Kurdistan. The Kurds live in the northern chunk of Iraq and have always wanted to be an independent nation, separate from the Sunni and Shia Arabs who fill up the rest of Iraq. The “issue” of Kurdistan is one of the many significant genies the U.S. let out of the bottle with the 2003 invasion of Iraq that was left unresolved.

    The Kurds have oil, which Exxon would like to have. In late 2011 as the U.S. military was sounding the call to retreat, Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest oil company, defied the instructions of the Baghdad government and signed a separate deal with the Iraqi Kurds to search for oil in the northern area of Iraq they control. To make matters worse, three of the areas Exxon signed up to explore are on territory in dispute.

    Now, in 2013, the Iraq central government is in a muscle tussle with Exxon. Exxon faces a dilemma over whether to operate in the south of the country or honor its deals with the autonomous Kurdistan region. Iraqi Prime Minister Malaki and his central government says the oil company can’t have both. Maliki last month made Exxon an offer in a bid to woo back the company, which had seemed intent on pulling out of the $50 billion oilfield in the south under the central government’s jurisdiction. The substance of Maliki’s offer to Exxon is not known, but industry sources describe it as substantial and say it is likely to involve sweet contract terms. The condition is that Exxon quit the northern Kurdish region.

    One in-the-know economist offered this insight into why Kurdish oil is so attractive to Exxon:

    For all its faults, the Baghdad-run awarding of oil contracts is as open and transparent as you can get in this sector. The Kurds on the other hand have a very murky process that allows for immense kickbacks and skimming. U.S. companies prefer working with the Kurds because they simply wave a wand and awards a high-cost contract, while Baghdad nitpicks about every single cost.

    So what’s a multi-national to do? Take the deal for the Shia south fields and abandon the likely richer northern Kurd fields? Why not hire a very recently ex-ambassador to pimp out his contacts with the Malaki government to see if you can score some crude from all sides? After all, since Jeffrey failed to positively affect the oil issue in Iraq as ambassador, what could possibly be wrong with him being hired as a consultant so that he, and Exxon, can profit from it?

    So, to recap:

    — Soldiers who fought in Iraq get killed, PTSD, record-high suicide rates, unemployment.

    — Regular State Department drones who worked in Iraq get nothing special.

    — Whistleblowers and those who pretend to be lose their jobs.

    — Contractors who keep their mouths shut get rewarded with similar well-paid positions in Afghanistan.

    — Ambassadors who stick to the party line get high-paid consulting gigs.




    Jeffrey is pictured above, playing some sort of obscene hand gesture game with the vice president.




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    State Department: McGurk “Uniquely Qualified” to be Ambassador

    June 9, 2012 // 8 Comments »

    In the face of a ferocious head wind of criticism against Ambassador-to-Iraq wanna be Brett McGurk, State’s official comment is that he is “uniquely qualified” to serve as the top American diplomat in Iraq and urged the Senate to confirm him quickly.

    The Senate did not respond with alacrity. Several Republican senators, including Sen. John McCain, have criticized McGurk for his failure to negotiate a residual US force in Iraq after combat troops left in December 2011, an action that is directly responsible for several billion dollars in extra security costs for the State Department. A spokesman for Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., says that there are “concerning issues” about McGurk’s nomination and that the senator will not meet with him until those have been addressed. Inhofe spokesman Jared Young said the senator, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has not decided whether to place a formal hold on the nomination — which could kill it — but is withholding judgment until the matter is “cleared up.”

    We suggest whoever has to “clean up” this mess wear a condom and wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

    Why Not

    Reasons not to confirm McGurk cover the spectrum:

    He used official government email to hook up with a journalist in Iraq while married to someone else. Poor judgment, lack of maturity and discretion, reckless personal life, “notoriously disgraceful conduct” that State disciplines its own staff for.

    In those same emails (which State essentially confirmed as authentic, stating “they are out there for everyone to see” and that the reporter “subsequently became his wife.”) McGurk dangles information for nooky to his reporter squeeze. McGurk saw no ethical issues in that deal, and saw no ethical issues in his now wife having sex with one of her journalistic sources. Why won’t he apply the same standards to his work as ambassador?

    McGurk has held no job since graduation except to work on Iraq. He has been handmaiden to all the wonder, glory and success that has been the US in Iraq.

    McGurk has never run an embassy, or anything else other than his own mouth, and is seeking to be in charge of the world’s largest and most expensive embassy as his training assignment. That embassy costs us $6.5 billion a year and employs over 16,000 people. This is not a place for a beginner, even with help.

    Iraq is in political upheaval at present, with many elements gathering against current Prime Minister Malaki. McGurk is very, very close to Malaki and unlikely to be seen as a neutral, honest broker inside Iraq.

    McGurk lied to his wife, messed around with a reporter, wrote her emails about his “blue balls” and masturbation in language that would be unimpressive from a high school kid. He is rumored to be in a sex tape, with another woman, a State Department employee now in Qatar we’re told. McGurk obviously has enemies inside State, with no assurance that the leaks are over with. Exactly what credibility will he have with his staff? How about his female staff?

    McGurk speaks no Arabic and, based on his meandering answers in his confirmation hearing, can’t memorize facts and figures.

    McGurk’s presence as ambassador would send a clear, sad message to all State Department employees that double standards of behavior apply, and that if you’re senior enough you can get away with things underlings get fired for.

    Is America sending the right message to Iraq and the world when this is the best we can come up with for an ambassador’s job?


    Bonus: Neither State nor McGurk has explained why it took a leak and then the efforts of some dedicated bloggers to bring out this information from State’s own archives? Why did State hide this until it was forced to admit it? What else is being withheld, and why does State withhold information from the Senate?

    In my own case, State’s Diplomatic Security combed through my emails back years looking for dirt. Did they not look into McGurk’s? If not, why not? If so, why did they cover this up?

    State, for its part, amazingly said “McGurk had been subject to rigorous vetting before being nominated for the job.” Hah hah, I guess that vetting should have been just a teensy, tiny bit more robust, eh? How can they say such things with a straight face?

    Bonus Bonus: Marrying the woman you used to cheat on your wife does not erase the fact that you lied, broke your vows and cheated on your wife.


    Seriously.

    Iraq is a messy, complex place. 4484 Americans died there, over a hundred thousands Iraqis lost their lives. The Embassy in Iraq costs the US taxpayers between $6.5 and $4 billion a year, and has over 16,000 people working for it. This is not the place for an amateur, or for someone who can’t keep his zipper up and his mind on the job.

    We need someone serious, mature and committed in this tough job, and we’re being fed Bluto from the Delta House. Zero point zero.

    There are thousands of men and women in and out of government who speak Arabic, will present themselves as neutral brokers in Iraq and who can bring a fresh perspective to US policy there. Many of them have extensive executive experience, either running embassies themselves or in heading corporate ventures. None of them have their squishy sleezy emails leaked online by people who think they are unqualified enough to risk their careers to stop them, and the majority of them don’t sleep around on their spouses. Most of them are mature enough to not use government email to talk about whacking off.

    And if all that isn’t enough, who says the leaks are over with, and that there isn’t more to come to embarrass us all again, now or when McGurk is in Baghdad?

    Out of all those people, why why why is the State Department convinced only McGurk is qualified for this job?




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    Reality Fails to Make Impact in Washington

    April 26, 2012 // 1 Comment »

    President Obama spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to express support for a unified Iraq. “President Obama expressed the United States’ firm commitment to a unified, democratic Iraq as defined by Iraq’s constitution,” said a White House readout of the phone conversation.

    Meanwhile, on our planet, the Associated Press tells us:

    Now that U.S. forces are gone, Iraq‘s ruling Shiites are moving quickly to keep the two Muslim sects separate — and unequal. Sunnis are locked out of key jobs at universities and in government, their leaders banned from Cabinet meetings or even marked as fugitives. Sunnis cannot get help finding the body of loved ones killed in the war, and Shiite banners are everywhere in Baghdad. “The sectarian war has moved away from violence to a soft conflict fought in the state institutions, government ministries and on the street,” political analyst Hadi Jalo says. “What was once an armed conflict has turned into territorial, institutionalized and psychological segregation.”

    Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, the administration’s top Sunni official, is a fugitive wanted by prosecutors on terror charges. He fled to the self-ruled Kurdish region in northern Iraq to escape what he said would certainly be a politically motivated trial, and he left this week for Qatar, which publicly has criticized what the Gulf nation’s prime minister called the marginalization of Sunnis. Hashemi is now in Saudi Arabia, probably apartment hunting. Al Jazzeera says that in a 2008 US diplomatic cable Saudi intelligence chief Prince Muqrin was quoted as saying Saudi King Abdullah saw Maliki as “an Iranian 100 per cent,” so presumably Hashemi will enjoy a warm welcome to the Kingdom.

    In other news, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni, has been banned from attending Cabinet meetings because he called Maliki a dictator.

    Obama seemingly supports these autocratic moves by Malaki in appointing a new US Ambassador who is openly opposed by non-Malaki supporters, to the point where they are talking about refusing to meet with him. That refusal to even meet could possibly affect efforts at unification, what do you think?

    It remains unclear why US officials say the things that they do, statements that are not clearly related to the obvious reality around them. Is it wishful thinking? Hope as a strategy? They can’t be that stupid, right?

    Right?



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    Letter from Tehran

    April 25, 2012 // 2 Comments »

    Hello American people, your friend Nouri al Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, writing to you here from Tehran, which is the capital of Iran since many Americans I heard are ignorant of basic geography. For example, did you know that Iraq’s borders, which cause so much Sunni-Shia-Kurd trouble for you, were basically drawn up artifically by your old friends the British? Hah hah, this is true.

    I am in Tehran this week, as you can see from the photo, meeting with my old friends the Iranians. I had a few minutes here and wanted to drop you in America a line to say “hi.” Your Barack invited me to the White House last December as a propaganda ploy as the US was magnanimously returning my country to me, but since I have been naughty since then I doubt I will be invited back again to greet you in person.

    Ahmadinejad said that Tehran-Baghdad ties are exemplary. “Tehran, Baghdad share ‘unbreakable’ relationship’.” Like me, his English not so good, you forgive, OK.

    I started thinking about you when I was reading a book about what you call the “Vietnam War.” People over there call it the Third Indochina War, as they fought the Japanese, the French and then the Americans in succession, much as we in Iraq call the most recent invasion by you the Third Gulf War, after Saddam fought the Iranians in the 1980’s (you were on Iraq’s side), then Iraq fought the US in 1991 and of course then you invaded us because of 9/11 in 2003. Your wonderful naivete about history just amuses me.

    You know, in Vietnam your government convinced generations of Americans to fight and die for something bigger than themselves, to struggle for democracy they believed, to fight Communism in Vietnam before it toppled countries like dominoes (we also love this dominoes game in Iraq!) and you ended up fighting Communism in your California beaches. Everyone believed this but it was all a lie. Then in 2003 the George W. Bush (blessed be his name) told the exact same lie and everyone believed it again– he just changed the word “Communism” to “Terrorism” and again your American youth went off to die for something greater than themselves but it was a lie. How you fooled twice?

    Soon of course the Obama will say something similar and you’ll do it again. Maybe in Syria, maybe here in Iran, maybe somewhere that is not even connected to the lie as was with Iraq and 9/11.

    But I am rude. I need to say now “Thank You” to the parents of the 4484 Americans who died in this Iraq invasion so that I could become the new autocratic leader of Iraq. Really guys and the girls, I could not have achieved this status without you.

    You see, during the Saddam years I was forced to live in exile in Iran. This is true! Your war allowed me to come back to Iraq and become Prime Minister. In March 2010 you had another American election festival for us in Iraq, and I lost by the counting of votes. However, because your State Department was desperate for some government to form here and they could not broker a deal themselves, they allowed the Iranian government to come and help me (as we are old friends you now know) and arrange a deal with the Sadrists (they were once terrorists on one of your lists). So then I won.

    Within days of your troops leaving Iraq in December 2011 (a deal I also need thanks to say to your randy man Brett McGurk for he negotiated it with me, thanks ‘Randy, we party again soon, maybe in Doha where I hear you have friends, yeah!) I had my main opponent’s staff tortured and sent that bastard dog Hashimi on the run. Soon I take over the good big ministries and arrest a few, watch a mayor commit suicide in my jail and now here I am, working back toward as much power as Saddam held just a few years ago.

    My Iraq is good friends with my Iran thanks to you, and I am returning some favors allowing Iranian arms to criss-cross Iraq into Syria. It is what friends are for, no? “If Tehran and Baghdad are powerful, then there will be no place for the presence of enemies of nations in this region, including the U.S. and the Zionist regime,” the official Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as telling al-Maliki, which is me.

    Anyway, I gotta run. Being a autocrat is busy days you know, as being one man in control means I have to do so much. I am now working with Iran to rebuild Iraq, some of that reconstruction you claimed to have done but now we really do need to fix some stuff up, so this time it is for serious.

    There’s my picture when I was at your Arlington National Cemetery with the Obama. I looked so serious but I was thinking about hot women! But yes, my thanks again for sacrificing 4484 of your young men and women for me. I can never repay this debt, not that I would even think of seeking to repay you anything you ignorant pigs.

    With love,

    Nouri al Maliki (follow me on Twitter!)







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    Iraq Offers Advice to Libya on Democracy

    October 7, 2011 // Comments Off on Iraq Offers Advice to Libya on Democracy

    (This is true)

    Iraq’s prime minister offered to help Libya, a country with a shared history of dictatorship, build its fledgling democracy during a meeting Thursday with Libya’s visiting prime minister. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told his Libyan counterpart, Mahmoud Jibril, who was on a one-day visit to Iraq, that Baghdad is will to ready to lend support on writing a constitution and holding elections.



    (This was intercepted by accident via a misrouted Wikileaks submission)

    Maliki (Iraq): So how much you get from the Americans?

    Jibril (Libya): Freaking billions, dude. Bundles of cash. I got no place to store it.

    Maliki (Iraq): Yeah, that’s not my missing oil money bro, right?

    Jibril (Libya): (laughter)

    Maliki (Iraq): I heard kids in America have to pay for their own democracy. Not like us, eh? Here, watch this. (sound of phone) Hey, Barack. Paypal me $100 million or I’ll appoint al-Sadr governor of Anbar, bitch.

    Jibril (Libya): Ok, I’ll try (sound of phone). Barack, how’s it hanging? Hey, I need $200 million or I can’t promise where that Qaddafi yellowcake is gonna end up. (pause) It’s all about the Benjamins.

    Maliki (Iraq): So about these elections my friend. The Americans will want lots of TV coverage of the purple fingers of “voters.” I don’t know what it is, some kind of fetish thing for them. Nobody cares who wins, as long as it looks fair at the one polling site Jimmy Carter and Sean Penn show up to watch. If those two get out of control, just fire off a few shots and have one of your goons throw a rock at Anderson Cooper and they’ll all run home.

    Jibril (Libya): Got it. By the way, I downloaded the US Constitution off Wikipedia last night like you said, and did search and replace on “America” for “Libya.” Is that enough for the Americans?

    Maliki (Iraq): Close my friend. Stick in some b.s. about giving rights to women, and some bullshit about freedom of religion. They LOVE that stuff. Here’s a number for my man at FOX– email him a copy, plus extras for McCain and Lieberman, they share the same email addy anyway. That’ll be worth a couple of billion in aid next year. If they complain about anything, call Hilary and say they’re messin’ with your Islam. She’ll fix it.

    Jibril (Libya): Hey man, thanks for all this. I thought democracy was gonna be a lot harder.

    Maliki (Iraq): No worries brother. Just one more thing. Watch this (phone sounds). Barack– I just found some al Qaeda guys in my pool house. Get your lazy ass over here and clean my freaking swimming pool.

    Jibril (Libya): Sweet. I love freedom.

    (static)




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    Ayad Allawi Sums it Up: Iraq is So Screwed

    September 13, 2011 // Comments Off on Ayad Allawi Sums it Up: Iraq is So Screwed

    Ayad Allawi, a former prime minister of Iraq, leads the largest political bloc in Iraq’s Parliament. He won the popular vote in Iraq’s last (likely last ever) election in March 2010, but was out-maneuvered for the Prime Minister’s job by al-Malaki and al-Sadr, brought together by the Iranians as the US sat back and just watched it happen, 4474 soldier’s lives flushed away in a desperate act of a coward’s political expediency. State was ready to accept any deal that created any kind of government, hoping that “good news” would allow the US to finally claim victory in Iraq. Mission Accomplished Mr. Ambassador! And thanks for your service!

    Allawi, shown here with a deeply constipated George Bush, is no saint himself, but does sort of sum it all up for Iraq in this Op-Ed, originally in the Washington Post.

    As the Arab Spring drives change across our region, bringing the hope of democracy and reform to millions of Arabs, less attention is being paid to the plight of Iraq and its people. We were the first to transition from dictatorship to democracy, but the outcome in Iraq remains uncertain. Our transition could be a positive agent for progress, and against the forces of extremism, or a dangerous precedent that bodes ill for the region and the international community.

    Debate rages in Baghdad and Washington around conditions for a U.S. troop extension beyond the end of this year. While such an extension may be necessary, that alone will not address the fundamental problems festering in Iraq. Those issues present a growing risk to Middle East stability and the world community. The original U.S. troop “surge” was meant to create the atmosphere for national political reconciliation and the rebuilding of Iraq’s institutions and infrastructure. But those have yet to happen.

    More than eight years after Saddam Hussein’s regime was overthrown, basic services are in a woeful state: Most of the country has only a few hours of electricity a day. Blackouts were increasingly common this summer. Oil exports, still Iraq’s only source of income, are barely more than they were when Hussein was toppled. The government has squandered the boon of high oil prices and failed to create real and sustainable job growth. Iraq’s economy has become an ever more dysfunctional mix of cronyism and mismanagement, with high unemployment and endemic corruption. Transparency International ranks Iraq the world’s fourth-most-corrupt country and by far the worst in the Middle East.

    The promise of improved security has been empty, with sectarianism on the rise. The Pentagon recently reported an alarming rise in attacks, which it blamed on Iranian-backed militias. The latest report to Congress by the U.S. special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction notes that June was the bloodiest month for U.S. troops since 2008 and concludes that Iraq is more dangerous than it was a year ago. Regrettably, Iraq’s nascent security forces are riddled with sectarianism and mixed loyalties; they are barely capable of defending themselves, let alone the rest of the country.

    Despite failing to win the most seats in last year’s elections, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki clung to power through a combination of Iranian support and U.S. compliance. He now shows an alarming disregard for democratic principles and the rule of law. Vital independent institutions such as the election commission, the transparency commission and Iraq’s central bank have been ordered to report directly to the office of the prime minister. Meanwhile, Maliki refuses to appoint consensus candidates as defense and interior ministers, as per last year’s power-sharing agreement.

    The government is using blatant dictatorial tactics and intimidation to quell opposition, ignoring the most basic human rights. Human Rights Watch reported in February on secret torture prisons under Maliki’s authority. In June, it exposed the government’s use of hired thugs to beat, stab and even sexually assault peaceful demonstrators in Baghdad who were complaining about corruption and poor services. These horrors are reminiscent of autocratic responses to demonstrations by failing regimes elsewhere in the region, and a far cry from the freedom and democracy promised in the new Iraq.

    Is this really what the United States sacrificed more than 4,000 young men and women, and hundreds of billions of dollars, to build?

    The trend of failure is becoming irreversible. Simply put, Iraq’s failure would render every U.S. and international policy objective in the Middle East difficult to achieve, if not impossible. From combating terrorism to nuclear containment to energy security to the Middle East peace process, Iraq is at the center. Our country is rapidly becoming a counterweight to all positive efforts to address these issues, instead of the regional role model for democracy, pluralism and a successful economy that it was supposed to be.

    It is not too late to reverse course. But the time to act is now. Extending the U.S. troop presence will achieve nothing on its own. More concerted political engagement is required at the highest levels to guarantee the promise of freedom and progress made to the Iraqi people, who have suffered and sacrificed so much and are running out of patience.

    It is necessary, and achievable, to insist on full and proper implementation of the power-sharing agreement of 2010, with proper checks and balances to prevent abuse of power, and full formation of the government and its institutions on a nonsectarian basis. Malign regional influences must be counterbalanced. Failing these steps, new elections free from foreign meddling, and with a truly independent judiciary and election commission, may be the only way to rescue Iraq from the abyss. This solution is increasingly called for by Iraqi journalists and political leaders and on the street.

    The invasion of Iraq in 2003 may indeed have been a war of choice. But losing Iraq in 2011 is a choice that the United States and the rest of the world cannot afford to make.



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    Iraq Democracy Watch

    June 12, 2011 // 1 Comment »

    SecDef Robert Gates brayed that “Something we could not have predicted five months ago is that Iraq would emerge as the most advanced Arab democracy in the entire region.”

    So, in honor of Gates’ proclamation, This Week in Iraqi Democracy is brought to you by the letter F, and the 4,460 American soldiers’ lives wasted in the US war in Iraq:


    — Two rival Iraqi lawmakers came to blows inside parliament on Sunday at a time of rising tension between Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Shiite bloc and a rival Sunni-backed alliance.

    — One civilian was killed and four were wounded in a bomb blast in Jihad area in Baghdad, security sources said. “A bomb planted near a football playground exploded, which led to killing one civilian and wounding four,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq.

    — Violence north of Baghdad on Saturday killed 10 people, including five members of a Sunni Arab family slain early in the morning, Iraqi security and medical officials said. In Saturday’s deadliest attack, a primary school teacher and his family were gunned down inside their home in Salaheddin province.

    — Rand Paul took exception to the number of Iraqi refugees who have been granted asylum in the United States. “There’s a democratic government over there, and I think they need to be staying and helping rebuild their country,” he said. “We don’t need them over here on government welfare. Why are we admitting 18,000 people for political asylum from Iraq, which is an ally of ours?” The United States has resettled more than 54,000 Iraqi refugees since 2006 and has given over $2 billion in assistance to displaced Iraqis, according to the State Department.

    — The US Embassy in Iraq is distancing itself from statements made by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher that led to an Iraqi government spokesman saying the congressman and his delegation are not welcome in the country.

    — “I am protesting against everything because everything is wrong,” said Mohammed Jassim, a 28-year-old jobless protester. Hundreds took to the streets of Iraqi cities on Friday, denouncing what they say was a lack of government progress after a 100-day deadline set by Prime Minister al Maliki expired. The demonstration was overshadowed by a larger rally of some 3,000 people, also at Tahrir Square, calling for the execution of 25 accused insurgents. Many of the anti-government protesters were beaten with sticks.

    — A Shiite militia group in Iraq claimed a rocket attack which killed five US soldiers, a strike that revived security concerns as US forces prepare to pull out at the end of the year. Another U.S. soldier was killed in south Iraq on Wednesday.

    — CNN reported that Iraq liquor store owners fear for their lives amid attacks. “It’s the most dangerous job to have a liquor store in Baghdad because there are many groups against this kind of business, either within the government or outside it,” said Yaqoub, a Yazidi minority that has been a target of insurgents in recent years. “It’s painful to see this happening to our country, ” said 46-year-old Essa, a Christian. “All Iraqis used to live together, and it didn’t matter who was Sunni or who was Shiite, who was Muslim or who was Christian.”

    — In Australia, local media ran a story headlined Betrayed: Jobless Iraqis in Despair, about how three years after they fled Iraq on secret flights, all but a tiny fraction of former interpreters are unemployed and have to rely on government benefits. Many are fearful and highly secretive, believing if their names or faces are made public, militia in Iraq who regard them as traitors for helping Australian forces will carry out reprisals on their relatives.

    — In the US, authorities unsealed a 23-count indictment against two Iraqi refugees living in Bowling Green, KY, on charges that the men allegedly conspired to provide material support in the form of money, weapons and explosives to Al Qaeda in Iraq and that one man plotted to kill Americans abroad. The two men arrived in the United States as refugees from Iraq in 2009.


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    Sound of Freedom

    May 22, 2011 // Comments Off on Sound of Freedom

    It started out as a quiet Sunday in Lake Wobegon. Most days are, sunny and warm, very much late spring. You can smell summer coming. The pool is open and the rhythms of the little place shift again. New people arriving, some others finishing up their year and heading out. Cycle of life stuff and all that.

    Outside the Embassy, fifteen bombs exploded Sunday within hours of one another in Baghdad, killing at least 18 people and wounding 80. PM al Maliki said al Qaeda and other terrorists are behind the killings but also has blamed political movements and security guards. I heard he also blamed Santa Claus, the late Billy Mays and his mom. Everyone else blamed the Americans.

    I heard from a colleague that it was otherwise a quiet Sunday at the Embassy. The USAID staff is moving in, closing down their own little compound in the Green Zone to make nice for a whole of government love festival. Also, it is considered off-message to call the area the “Green Zone” these days– the newspeak term is International Zone.

    The big news at the Embassy was that dozens of new palm trees, all fully grown, are being planted on campus to provide some shade. We live in there with all the shade money can buy, the Iraqis live out there.




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